How to Improve a Child’s Fine Motor Skill

The development of fine motor skills is a critical process in the comprehensive maturation of a child’s ability to function within everyday life in regards to basic movements, and indeed, in their eventual integration within society. Fine motor skills include the ability to precisely move parts of one’s hands and body, requiring high degree of focused control and precision in the process (this is parallel to the development of a child’s “gross motor skills”, which involve the functionality of large muscles, allowing the child to maintain their balance and elements of strength).

These fundamental skills are central to the eventual coordination and control of our limbs that we experience as adults. Typically, the development process progresses thusly: babies 3 months old will be able to swing their arms and put their hands in their mouths; babies around 2 years old will then see the beginnings of the ability to hold and manipulate objects such as crayons and containers; and eventually, when they grow to 5 – 6 years of age, the child will then be able to exhibit behaviours that include a higher degree of fine muscle coordination, such as tying their shoelaces as well as using a knife to chop up veggies.

Therefore, the early development of fine motor skills is required as a fundamental process in order to improve the abilities the child will eventually use within everyday life, and is therefore a key aspect in the maturation process of all children. However, it is common that not all children reach the intended milestones at the same time, due to the fact that all children develop at different paces in regards to, not only fine motor development skills, but a whole range of abilities. Therefore, a child with impaired motor functionality may have trouble with controlling and coordinating basic movements. That being said, do not worry, as there are a wide range of simple exercises that your child can undergo on a daily basis in order to improve their fundamentals.

1. Painting and Drawing

Painting is not only a great hobby for kids to have, allowing for the improvement of their creative and artistic abilities, it is also a great way to improve their fine motor skills. This is because, like drawing, it requires a degree of hand eye coordination, practising their ability to manipulate their hands in a precise and specific way to get the results that they desire. Starting with finger painting would probably be the most appropriate place to begin for children of a younger age. However, when they start to grow, it would be wise to progress from using finger-paint, to crayons or a paint brush. Essentially, this allows for the child to better practice the use of handling tools, which inevitably is essential in growing their fine motor skills.

2. Playing with Putty

More often than not, “modelling compound” is looked at as a rather uninteresting child’s toy and a lump of dough to keep a child busy in the meantime. However, modelling compound actually has more utility than one would think. Essentially, other than being used to enhance a child’s sensory abilities, modelling compound can be used to encourage the development of a child’s fine motor skills, as activities using this tool range from exercising squeezing, stretching, rolling and moulding motions. These are all movements that, if employed on a daily and consistent basis, eventually contribute to a child’s overall coordination skills and can inevitably lead to an increase in hand dexterity.

3. Gardening

This might be a surprising addition to the list, seeing that gardening is most commonly viewed as an activity for older individuals. However, this is not entirely the case, as planting and taking care of one’s garden indeed involves a lot of “handiwork” and concentration with one’s fingers. For example, the transfer of seedlings requires the person to know what he or she is doing with both the gardening tool and the plant; digging a large or small enough hole, and then carrying the plant into that hole. Indeed, there’s a whole range of abilities and tools a child will need to learn how to master in order to properly take care of the many plants within a garden. This requires focus, hand dexterity and the ability to understand step by step processes.

4. Origami

Origami is a great way to enhance a child’s overall finger dexterity, and there is evidence to back this up. Indeed, a study was conducted by the CABI Tanggamus learning group on fifteen children. In this test, children were observed on a before and after basis regarding their overall motor skills, which involve the use of small finger muscles and the ability to “use fingers and wrists that are fixed.” Out of a testing score that ranged from 0 – 72, children, during the pre-testing phase, scored an average score of 26. Conversely, after engaging in regular origami activities, the group had received an average score of 58, thus proving that regular origami activities during a critically young stage of a child’s life can vastly improve their finger dexterity. You can learn more about Gakken’s origami related activities and products here

So, there are a number of ways that a concerned parent can improve their child’s overall wellbeing and overall abilities, not just in regards to working the dexterity of their hands. One way to do this in an organised and fun manner is to check out the Gakken Play Smart Workbook, which includes a wide variety of brain exercises, training your child through engaging colouring activities and puzzles, among other things.

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